Phil Lesh 'Not Completely There Yet' Processing Jerry Garcia's Death

The Grateful Dead bassist looks back on a life of jamming and the loss of his friend

April 21, 2014 11:25 AM ET
Phil Lesh
Phil Lesh
Timothy Archibald

This spring and summer, Grateful Dead co-founder Phil Lesh, as he's done during so many spring and summers past, will be playing the music of his legendary former band and a whole host of other rootsy, cosmic sounds. The 74-year-old kicked off a marathon residency at Porth Chester, New York's Capitol Theater on April 2nd (Phil Lesh and Friends will play in excess of 40 shows at the venue throughout the year), and, more recently, Lesh and his band hit up the Brooklyn Academy of Music on April 14th and 15th, the bassist's first-ever gigs at the storied venue. 

Revisiting the music that's shaped his life has naturally led to some reflection on Lesh's part. In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Lesh told senior writer David Fricke, that "In the Grateful Dead, you couldn't take care of anybody but yourself. You couldn't convince anybody to do anything. Everyone was stubborn in their own ways. It wasn't affecting the music . . . when we're onstage together, we are one."

He also recalled his first impressions of Garcia, who he met in 1962 when the guitarist was still playing folk music, often on the banjo. "I have never heard anybody play banjo like that, before or since," said Lesh. "His ideas would spill over one another like a flood."

Still, nearly twenty years after Garcia's passing, his absence still stings. "It's taken me 15 years to come to terms with Jerry's death," Lesh admitted. "And I'm not completely there yet."

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